Patterns of Life1
Peter went up on the roof to pray … He fell into a trance. He saw … all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
- from Acts 10:9-14
Peter had relaxed his relationship with the Jewish purity codes enough to stay with a tanner (see yesterday’s post), but he still had limits.
In the Jewish community, the purity codes marked them and set them apart from the rest of the world. Obeying God’s commandments around what to eat and what to wear was one small way to honor him. They believed that God called them to be different from the rest of the world so that they could witness to the rest of the world that their God ruled the entire world (unlike all of the small gods worshipped around the world).
We can be tempted to scoff at their rule-keeping, but, if we’re honest, we’ll discover that we have rules of our own, ways we set ourselves apart from the rest of the world or identify with our chosen tribe.
Habits ingrained over the course of a lifetime can be hard to break. Taboos settle into our unconscious minds. We can have visceral reactions when asked to break a long-established patterns of life in order to try something new.
Peter’s resistance is perfectly understandable and deeply symbolic. The Lord didn’t actually want Peter to eat a snake or a lobster or even bacon. The Lord was going to send Peter to share the news about Jesus with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. This wasn’t about unclean food. It was about unclean people.
Our habits, taboos and patterns of life anchor us. This is a good and beautiful thing. We need anchors. But there are times when God calls us to pull up our anchors and set out to sea. We will often feel internal resistance to this prospect (just as Peter did). But God’s invitation to us remains.
Where do you have habits, taboos and patterns of life that keep you from reaching across barriers and connecting with people who are different from you? What would it look like for you to pull up those anchors? How can you start today?